Library legal fight costs taxpayers thousands


CENTERVILLE, Ohio (WDTN) – A local public library is spending thousands of dollars every year, not on books, but on legal bills.

For more than 7 years, a group of employees at the Washington-Centerville Public Library have been trying to get a union up and running, but the library management claims it wasn’t done properly. This fight is costing tax payers thousands of dollars every year.

“The longer they fight the notion we should organize to support each other and ourselves, the more obvious it becomes that we must,” said Library Union Employee, Joyce Fisher

A group of employees at the library voted to unionize in 2009. 7 years later they still don’t have contract with their bosses.

“We never got to function as a union because of the legal battles,” said Fisher.

The employees and library management have gone back and forth and that fight is not cheap.

2 NEWS Investigates dug through invoices and found the Library paid a law firm $37,000 for employment issues in 2010, more than $21,000 in 2012 and more than $68,000 last year, totaling more than $220,000 in the last 7 years. A majority of that money is being used in the legal battle with the union.

And all of it is your tax dollars.

“It’s an awful lot of money to throw at a problem over a long time, when it could have been handled a lot more economically,” said Fisher.

Your money, that some employees believe could have been better spent.

“Books, movies, games, increased staff, higher salaries, obviously. Our salaries have fallen out of step with neighboring library ranges,” said Fisher.

2 NEWS Investigates asked the library about the legal costs and even though an average homeowner in Centerville is paying more than 100 dollars a year in taxes to keep the place running, they refused to answer our questions on-camera.

Instead, they directed me to the same law firm they’ve been paying to deal with the union issue.

The attorney there said the Library claims it’s ordinary spending.

In a statement, they said the Library has never been against union organizing but they do have a problem with how this one started.

We checked and found there have been appeals and investigations against the union on this matter, but time and time again they were looked into and dismissed.

But the legal fight and bills that come along with it are still being delivered to the Library as both sides try to come to an agreement.

“We simply want to have a seat at the table, to be able to speak up for ourselves and stand up for each other,” said Fisher.

When asked what their message is to taxpayers, the library says “being responsible stewards of public funds is the most important consideration when bargaining with the union. While the library intends to provide fair wages and benefits, it will not overpay for the services the employees provide just because some of its employees are represented by a union.”

The library’s attorney says the money spent so far is typical in negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.

See all expenditures:

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